In the Unabomber case, a search for closure Victims, Kaczynski will get their chance to speak in court today

May 04, 1998|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The similarities are striking: Two smart, one-time Midwesterners with an affinity for mathematics, a love of the wilderness and academic careers that took them to Berkeley.

They never met but their paths crossed horribly. Today, Theodore J. Kaczynski is expected to receive a life sentence for a series of bombings that killed three and injured 23, including John Hauser.

Kaczynski, the confessed Unabomber, will be sentenced in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., formalizing the plea bargain that abruptly ended his trial in January. The sentencing brings a legal end to the long-running saga of the Chicago prodigy turned Berkeley math professor turned Montana hermit.

And, although no surprises are expected, victims and survivors of the Unabomber's 16-year campaign of terror may opt to

speak, for the first time in open court, about the continuing devastation of their lives.

"Obviously, my arm is going to be like this for a long time," said Hauser, 39, who lost the use of his right arm and his dreams of becoming an astronaut when he became the Unabomber's eighth victim on May 15, 1985.

Hauser, a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said his workload prevents a trip to Sacramento for the hearing. A prosecution spokeswoman said it was not known how many victims or their survivors would choose to speak today.

Kaczynski, 55, also may make a statement.

"He has the right, and whether he takes the opportunity and says something remarkably lucid or something rude is the only bit of intrigue," legal analyst Andrew Cohen said.

Cohen said the hearing could become very emotional if the victims and their family members choose to speak.

"This will be their only chance to speak, on the record,in front of Kaczynski," he said. "I think the prosecution still feels it needs to make a record of whatever evidence it has, and the victims on how it has affected their lives.

"You could say they're piling it on, but it would allow the victims to get closure. It's a courtesy thing and it's something that may be necessary," Cohen said.

"I've gone back and forth on what I might like or not like to do," Hauser said. "I had even considered looking into the eyes of this person. But it's not always clear it's the best idea to put yourself in a position where you will feel anger."

It was 13 years ago that, as a graduate student at Berkeley, he was working in a lab and noticed a small box on a table. He opened it, and an explosion ripped his fingers off with such force that the "Academy" on the Air Force ring he was wearing left an imprint on a wall six feet away. Nails and tacks tore his arm. His hand, left with a thumb and stumps of fingers, remains mostly numb.

While his aspirations to become a test pilot or an astronaut were fTC shattered, Hauser says he tries to live as fully as possible: A nature lover who grew up in rural Wisconsin and keeps books by Thoreau in his office, he rock climbs and bicycles, enjoys motorcycling and occasionally flies a small plane.

Hauser had previously seen parts of Kaczynski's diaries that federal prosecutors released last week as part of a pre-sentencing memorandum. In them, Kaczynski chillingly analyzed his attacks, including the one that maimed Hauser.

"I am no longer bothered by having crippled this guy," Kaczynski wrote in a code that agents unscrambled. "I laughed at the idea of having any compunction about crippling an airplane pilot."

"It sort of personalizes it a lot," Hauser said. "When it's more abstract, you can leave it outside. When you're personally insulted, rather than thrown in a group, when he ridiculed things I found exciting that sort of strikes home to you. It adds insult to injury.

"This whole thing with the manifesto, the environment, some noble purpose -- the diary showed it was all really a facade," he said. "It's clear that this guy was out for blood. This is a little bit hard to take."

For Hauser, there's no real endpoint to the Unabomber saga, but there is perhaps the revenge of living well, or as well as possible given the circumstances.

"I'm not a great believer in the victimhood business. But I do carry around certain evidence. Little kids come up and say, 'What happened to your arm?' " he said.

"We all have to deal with circumstances. Gosh, why roll over and stop enjoying life because something happened. Of course, I'd love to have my arm back. But if you're taking a journey across the wilderness and you come across a canyon, you have to find another path."

Pub Date: 5/04/98

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